Frugal is Not a Bad Word

Jen Smith of The Frugal Friends podcast was kind enough to sit down with us and discuss something that a lot of people are afraid to say: “They’re frugal.” But being frugal doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

And that’s something we discussed with Jen in our most recent episode.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Spending
  • What made Jen go into the frugal lifestyle
  • So much more

We’re not talking about budgeting in this episode, but we will talk about being frugal and how to get what you want in life while still being frugal.

How Jen Started with the Frugal Friends Podcast

Jen has a typical story that a lot of people in the 30s – 50s have. She wasn’t “frugal” when she was in college, she’d grab a cup of Starbucks daily and just enjoyed her life in general. However, she was in college and accumulating student debt, which so many people do because they need an education to get a good job.

She ended up with $50,000 in student loans, and when she got married, she and her husband decided that it was time to get out of debt.

It took the two of them two years to pay off $78,000 in loans, and this was really when Jen learned what it meant to be frugal.

She realized that buying generic brands doesn’t make you frugal.

Jen learned how to make intentional purchases and do it the frugal way. We learned a lot from her, and we started with one question that a lot of people have.

How is Frugality Different from Being Cheap?

Being cheap and frugal isn’t the same thing. When making big life shifts, there’s always a choice of being frugal. A good example of being frugal is going to Target to buy a new shirt. You find two shirts:

  1. One shirt is $10. It looks great, but the style will likely be “old” in a few years, and the shirt will likely not make it past 4 – 5 years.
  2. Another shirt is $50. It is a great look with a timeless style, and the shirt will last well past five years with the right care.

Jen’s definition of frugal doesn’t mean being cheap. Instead, she would buy the second shirt because she knows that due to the quality, she won’t need to replace it for a very long time. Frugal considers quality.

Cheap items end up in a landfill and often come from labor sources that are less than humane.

If you’re being cheap, you may be taking advantage of someone else, such as buying shirts from a country where child labor is common. You also need to consider cheap items are often:

  • Lower quality
  • May break/shrink/etc.

Additionally, cheap items continue taking up resources, which has hidden long-term costs that people don’t think about. Plus, when you’re frugal, it does make it easier to stay on top of your finances.

Shifting to a Frugal Lifestyle

Adults do not like being told what to do, right? Jen states that adults hate being told what to do because “that’s for children.” And for some people, they want to spend what they spend because they don’t want someone else telling them what to do with their money.

However, this isn’t the right way to look at being frugal.

Instead, being frugal is buying your own freedom. For example, I want X more than I want to spend on Y. Using this analogy, it’s a lot easier to understand that being frugal can help you reach the financial freedom you want.

For example:

  • You don’t want that Starbucks coffee 
  • Instead, you want to save that money to pay off debt 

Everyone has needs and wants.  Being frugal is making sure your needs are met rather than allowing your wants to override your needs.

Fighting Temptation to Impulse Buy

Impulse buying is difficult to curb because marketers follow you everywhere. You can look at a new laptop once, and you can be confident that you’ll see laptop ads on social media, your favorite sites and everywhere else you land online.

Fighting the temptation to purchase these products is difficult, and there’s no secret method to stopping these impulse buys. Instead, systems can be put in place to stop you from clicking the “buy now” button.

Jen recommends:

  • Figuring out your core values for you
  • Saying “no” to things outside of these values

Stress and emotional triggers lead to impulse buys, so you may need to remove Facebook from your phone or avoid certain stores. For example, let’s say that you love a certain store, but you know that when you’re stressed and obsessed, going in it will lead to bad purchasing decisions. If you avoid the store, you can avoid making impulse purchases.

We all have our spending triggers. It’s crucial to learn what they are and put up roadblocks to stop them from impacting our lives.

Getting Your Spending Under Control

Many people don’t want to look at all of their expenses and figure out where they’re overspending. However, you need to get your spending under control before you can have a frugal lifestyle where you get more of your needs and less of your wants.

Jen recommends the “radical middle method,” and this method doesn’t go to the extremes of eating rice and beans daily. Instead, she recommends creating a life plan and asking yourself:

  • What are your goals?
  • What are your partner’s goals?
  • What are your kids’ goals?

Start with hard conversations to learn what you want and what everyone around you wants for the rest of your life. Journaling is very healthy for this exercise. When you really know what you want in life, it makes being frugal easier.

When people realize that they can have the things they want in life if they just control their spending more, it becomes much easier to find “freedom in spending.” You can still spend money when you’re frugal, but it’s spending with a purpose rather than spending to spend for that fleeting moment of happiness.

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